It is mid-afternoon and I am in the outpatient department, with four doctors in our clinic and by this time of day perhaps twenty-odd people with their assorted relatives in the waiting room. We are running late. We are always running late.
I am going down the corridor to collect my next patient, sticker sheet with their details on in my hand. My consultant’s door is open and I poke my head into his office to ask a question.
“Yes, that sounds fine,” he says. “You could add on this test to her bloods.”
“Okay,” I say. “Thanks. You don’t happen to know the phone number for the lab off the top of your head?”
“61234,” he says immediately. My consultant is often a better telephone directory than switchboard is.
I exit his office and continue on my way, patient’s details still in my hand.
“61234,” I shout. Loudly. The response is thirty heads swivelling, sixty eyebrows going up. I wait. And then the person in the chair nearest me dissolves into laughter and then the person next to her and the person across the room who catches his eye, and then I hear it.
“Oh, hell,” I say, not quietly enough. “Mrs Smith!”